Just not into him or fears from the past? 35f ponders marriage, again.
January 9, 2014 2:21 PM   Subscribe

TL/DR: My BF (30) and I have been together a year and 1/2. Moved too fast for me, and him too in retrospect. Never got on my own feet after bad divorce and that feeling has endured the length of my current relationship. Close friend and 1000000 people on Meta suggest breaking up. But...I panic at that, too.

I had awesome responses to my last question and want to ask if the wise minds here for some validation. I fully admit I'm a bit relationship stunted so please forgive me if my questions sound like no-brainers to you. I asked my previous question in September regarding my relationship ambivalence. The consensus was that we should break up. I heard you loud and clear.

My boyfriend (live-in of over a year) and I have talked about this stuff with brutal honesty. It was really hard for me to be that honest, but I did it! I have a past full of abuse and trauma stuff, so this was a big deal for me. I've learned I can tell my BF *anything* and he won't get violent (he never never would anyway) or threaten to kick me out. My marriage was like that and it's taken me a year of being with a Good Guy to feel that safe emotionally.

My BF also backed way off on marriage pressure. It was killin' me. It's super important for him to be married and he wants that with me. I'm, of course, unsure.

Here's why I'm unsure, and I would like to hear if you think these are valid reasons. (I do, but I second guess and don't trust my own judgement sometimes):

-We reallllly rushed things and that has been a cloud over the entire relationship. Dated 18 days, I went away for 3 months for work, moved in together a week after my return. Marriage talk in the first few months. There's no way to undo that and maybe we set ourselves on an untenable path.

-I lost my job and have been out of work for over a year. I am 35 and there is some amount of existential crisis going on. I need a career and not finding anything in my area (California), even Starbucks. Feel like I need to move to another location, which I would do if single. BF cannot move due to work.

-Along with the lack of career/financial independence, I feel like I never really got on my own 2 feet after my divorce and before I started dating my current BF. Who am I outside of that wife/companion role? All that shit.

-After having such a bad marital experience before, I am super gun shy. My ex was horrible to me and threatened my life. I got out as soon as I understood what was happening but I felt trapped and in peril much of the time. So, I value my independence in a way that feels like life or death.

For these reasons, I've told my BF that marriage is not something I am going to consider right now. He doesn't understand, but has agreed to back off any marriage talk for 6 months or so. His view is, if we love each other we should get married to show that commitment. I don't see what the rush is, especially since we both acknowledge that we moved way too fast.

My BF is so special to me and the longer we are together, the better we are getting at communicating. Yet I'm still not feeling any zoom for him like I think I should. Dead bedroom. All this points to breaking up and being on my own. I told my BF that I don't know if it's even possible to get on my own feet, get my life straight and do all that post-divorce discovering who you are now stuff, all the while being in a relationship. That maybe we are good on paper but not good in execution. Bad timing. He doesn't believe in any of that stuff or why I can't "find myself" while in the relationship. I don't know what to think. Am I just not that into him? Am I confused about what love is? I do love him. I know he loves me. I trust him, he trusts me. We don't argue over stuff like household chores or money. We treat each other well. We are both loyal and faithful. But something is holding me back, my feelings aren't YIPPEE LET'S GET MARRIED and all evidence (myself and observations from others) says to be kind to him and bail out now.

So why can't I just do that? After a year and 1/2, at my age (35) shouldn't I have a clear idea if I want to spend my life with someone? And the fact that I don't know, is that an automatic MOVE ON?
posted by dollyllama to Human Relations (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can't do it because you presumably want to marry someone who you like fucking (and vice versa). Dead bedroom is a huge problem. For the vast majority of people, relationships where you don't want to fuck are friendships.

Move on. He's not entitled to you simply because you get along. You don't need a reason to move on. You get to make 100% of this decision. It's not a negotiation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:28 PM on January 9, 2014 [11 favorites]

Yes, they're all perfectly valid reasons for wanting to move on. I get the feeling that you feel the need to be on your own for awhile and continue to heal from your marriage. That makes sense to me.

I think it's possible that you are reluctant to end things because you do care for him and you think he's a good guy and you just feel bad about ending things with someone you don't hate or dislike. But that's not a reason to stay. Be kind to both of you and move on. It may not be easy, but it's kinder to move on.
posted by inturnaround at 2:32 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's ok. Sometimes we survivors need a lot of time to heal. It's ok to want that time alone outside of the framework of a romantic relationship.

I jumped in with a few guys way too quickly after leaving my abuser and as nice as they were it just didn't work for me either. I need a lot of space to process all of that physical and emotional violence I experienced. The silliest things would make me freak out like no one's business after I left my abuser. They still do. I just can't do the relationship thing right now and that's ok.

It doesn't sound like you or your boyfriend are meeting one another's needs right now. You might float the idea of a hiatus or a break to take that space you need. Perhaps that's all it will take. The whole "if we love each other we should get married" thing? Perhaps it has a counterpart: "if we loved each other we'd set each other free."
posted by sockermom at 2:39 PM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

He doesn't understand, but has agreed to back off any marriage talk for 6 months or so.

I don't know your boyfriend, but generally that sort of looming-deadline sentiment means "if in six months you're not ready to at least consider the possibility of marrying me, I'm going to break up with you." Or at the very least "we're going to have a huge fight about this topic in six months."

If your boyfriend was here asking the other side of this question, people would be advising him that if he wants to get married and you don't want to consider it, he should break up with you. Just as people here are advising the same thing to you.

None of that means anyone is a bad person or made a bad decision or did anything wrong. It just means priorities aren't matching up and, sadly, that's sometimes how things are.

"I don't know what to think" is exactly right. You need time to sort your shit out and this relationship does not have such a time allowance unless he seriously changes his mind (which, honestly, would be sort of a red flag for future conflict because someone set aside what they want for someone else in a way that's short of an actual compromise.)
posted by griphus at 2:43 PM on January 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I've learned I can tell my BF *anything* and he won't get violent (he never never would anyway) or threaten to kick me out.

This is something you need to learn and integrate emotionally because of your history, but it's important to remind yourself that this is absolute bottom-of-the-barrel lowest-possible-criterion for a non-abusive relationship; it's not a reason to stay in a relationship, but just a condition that needs to be met for a relationship to even occur.
posted by jaguar at 2:43 PM on January 9, 2014 [35 favorites]

Best answer: When you have a diminished self and weak boundaries it is very scary to leave the safety of a relationship and go out on one's own. It is even harder when you are with someone who is pushing back against your own boundaries and trying to entangle you further, i.e. by not hearing you when you say things are moving too fast, you are not ready to be married, you need time to find yourself, etc. There are very good reasons why you're finding this hard and there's nothing wrong with you. In fact, having a clear idea of what you need (should I spend my life with someone), and being able to prioritize this over what others demand of you (someone wants you to spend your life with them) is also very hard for those with self / boundary issues. You're swimming upstream against the programming of your past experiences and the pressure he's putting on you; of course it's not easy.

You know what the right thing to do is, right? Your inner voice seems to know that you need space and time by yourself to work things out, and this should be non-negotiable, whether you find a way to achieve that in your current relationship, or if you choose to leave. I will say that a supportive partner should care about you having what you need to grow and should place that ahead of their own timelines, but whatever. The real issue is that it is very hard for you to take the space that you need. So, seek support for yourself to work on that issue. Support groups or therapy or caring friends, who can make the idea of taking what you need feel less scary.
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2014 [14 favorites]

I would set the time to talk about it again at a year, not 6 months. Less pressure on you... and who knows? maybe you will find your own answers before then.

You can tell the people in your life that you pushed "the talk" out for a year too.

If people you love (including him) can't work with the space and time you need, you need to live on your own for a bit and figure some shit out.

Be yourself and find a way to love yourself where you are at in life no matter how frustrating that is and all of the sudden everything changes.

I am not your therapist, but trust me... u=you are not ready to get married again.
posted by bobdow at 2:55 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

It really doesn't have to be either "not into him" or "scarred by my past" for the relationship to just not be what you want or need right now (or in the future).

Just because it's not a "bad" relationship, doesn't mean it's a "good" relationship for you.
posted by sm1tten at 3:08 PM on January 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

I am 48 and divorced. Abused as a kid but my husband wasn't abusive. The divorce has been final for several years. I am still working on 'finding myself' and still single by choice.

Given your description, I think you should go job hunt elsewhere. If you get a job elsewhere, take it. You can do the long distance relationship thing if you want for a time, but if you physically leave for a job, the relationship may well die on its own without you having to pull the plug. If it survives the separation, then you might have reason to marry him.

Either you didn't say or I missed it, but I am guessing this is the first guy for you since the divorce. I watched other people get divorced and ultimately marry the first person they slept with post divorce. I swore to myself I absolutely would not do that. I think it is possible/likely you think he is "so special" to you based solely on the fact that are willing to sleep with him. I made a conscious decision that my first sex "post divorce"* would be a throw away relationship with someone who meant nothing to me. I did not want to be all hung up on the detail of "we slept together, so it must be love" or something. I think a lot of people do that, so I am not trying to harsh on you. But I think it creates situations where people are scared to let go when they really should not be.

Best of luck.

* I was technically still going through my divorce
posted by Michele in California at 3:12 PM on January 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

As someone who has once on the other side of this equation, I'd say your mind seems pretty made up about what you need (or don't need), and you'd be better off by taking those steps to true independence. To do anything less continues to lead this guy on, letting him think that if he waits enough or is supportive enough that you'll come around. But you and I both know that won't happen - your post indicates you've pretty much reached your limit for waiting around on a sign that this is the right relationship for you.

To offer up my experience: My ex and I were in a similar position but he decided to try and "find himself" while remaining in a relationship with me. Needless to say, "finding yourself" is, by nature, a selfish process; learning to love yourself doesn't leave much room to love someone else. I tried everything I could to be supportive - I gave emotional space, I took on all the living expenses so he could indulge himself like he couldn't before, and I even opened up the relationship sexually (per his request) in an attempt to make the overall relationship to continue. I was certain that if I made it as easy and convenient as possible to be in a relationship, then surely he could "find himself" while still in it. Alas, it didn't pan out that way. "Finding yourself" means generally engaging in behaviors or things that just aren't compatible with a (monogamous) relationship - things you know would cause rifts or break up.

Spare your guys' feelings and find the courage to finally go find yourself. You'll both be better off for it.
posted by stubbehtail at 3:31 PM on January 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

It sounds like you're trying to give yourself permission to break up. People break up with good people all the time. If it's not working for you, it's not working. You don't need a reason. Your SO won't like it, but you're doing him a favor. Being with someone who isn't into you sucks.

You don't need permission. If you're not into the relationship, end it.
posted by cnc at 3:47 PM on January 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

I personally wouldn't sweat the dead bedroom, as that can often be rectified. The way I've approached my marriage - although it might be misguided or simple for some - is to ask myself:

Do I love him?
Can I see myself growing old with him?

If you do and you can, then staying is still a viable option. Marriage isn't always about fireworks in the bedroom. It's about trust, stability, and companionship. Go to couple's counseling and address the sex issue. Also - I've never understood the 'go find yourself first' spiel... no one ever 'finds' themselves on their own, but through their interactions with others. Who's to say your BF/potential husband isn't the one to help you find yourself?

Yes, y'all rushed into things - but it sounds like he's been respectful of your desire to slow things down, right?

There's ALWAYS going to be something better, and there's always going to be 'what ifs'. You're in a low place right now with what sounds like self-esteem issues. Running away from a good guy won't fix that.

My apologies if I'm off base, but I just feel that in this day and age people throw away perfectly good relationships because they're not perfect ENOUGH and there's something better out there they haven't found yet. Don't cut bait just yet - a job and a sense of self-worth/purpose can really change your perspective on things. I know this because at one point I was pretty much you.
posted by matty at 4:29 PM on January 9, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think there needs to be a third possible choice other than not into him or fears. I worry that the "dead bedroom" is the result of needing something experienced as potentially abusive to be exciting. You don't say how the sex in your bad marriage was so reassure me that it had been boring in that previous situation so that I can drop that third possibility off my list.
posted by Obscure Reference at 6:02 PM on January 9, 2014

The question I'm concerned about is whether you feel like he's pressuring you into marriage. There's absolutely no reason to put a timetable on that.

. His view is, if we love each other we should get married to show that commitment

No, that's not a great reason to get married. It sounds like he has a romantic view of what marriage is going to be. You can love each other and show your committment daily, to each other and to others, without being married. You get married because you want to face life's battles, day in and day out, with this person at your side, and you want the community's sanction for that.

I personally don't think you need to feel there's a ticking clock on that decision. It sounds like you could use your own time and space away from these fraught conversations, to think about how you really feel. At minimum, a quiet retreat for a few days. At maximum, getting your own place and perhaps working in another city.
posted by Miko at 7:02 PM on January 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Remember this comment of yours? Things are still dead in the bedroom. You want to be free.

The only thing stopping you is you.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 PM on January 9, 2014 [6 favorites]

Seems like both things are happening here: fears from the past and just not into him.
posted by macinchik at 9:25 PM on January 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I find myself agreeing with matty.

The older I get, the more I think that the 'being alone to find myself' thing is self-deluding. I believe that you create yourself, you don't find yourself.

I also don't think it is fair to put your relationship on ice, like 'give me 6 months' (let alone a year!!). You're both in your thirties; being with someone you love who won't make a commitment to you, after a year and a half, in your thirties, is a form of mild torture. If you really are so unsure, end it completely, but don't ask him to wait.

Do you want to be married again at some point? If so, why do you think some other time or person will be 'better'? Opportunities are not that thick on the ground for meeting single, decent men that you can fall in love with, post-35. (I'll get flamed for that, but fuck it, it's the truth.)

I'm not saying you should marry him. Just that all the metafilter answers to these types of questions seem to skew towards ditching the relationship. Perhaps too much so, IMO.
posted by Salamander at 11:55 PM on January 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you are looking for votes from random peeps on the internets, I vote no.

Nothing about this sounds positive. N.O.T.H.I.N.G.

10,000 more words would just elaborate on this theme. i'm going to show you how to cut your losses when it's appropriate to do so.

You know exactly what you need to do. Do it.
posted by FauxScot at 12:35 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you have to ask wether or not you should marry him, the answer is no. That goes double if you've already been in a shitty marriage and know what one looks like (and I'm not suggesting your guy is abusive.) Maybe you could find yourself in a relationship but if you were going to do it here, wouldn't it have started to happen already? Both of you deserve someone who can't wait to marry them. To do this to either of you is just cruel if you're not feeling it. The dead bedroom never lies, and that kind of thing rarely gets better if it's happening so early on.
posted by Jubey at 1:08 AM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

He doesn't believe in any of that stuff or why I can't "find myself" while in the relationship.

If you do want to break up with him, there is no need to get him to agree that the two of you need to break up beforehand. You just break up, and he can believe or not believe what he wants about it.
posted by yohko at 1:14 AM on January 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Why are you in this relationship? Answer that question honestly. If your answers are:

1. I LOVE this guy, he's so awesome, we laugh and have a great time together.
2. Things kind of suck in the sex department, but I know we can work it out.
3. My life is better when he's in it.

Then, stay, and work on the things that aren't so hot. You'll find a job, etc.

BUT. If your answer to the question are:

1. He's supporting me.
2. He's too nice to me, I feel weird about breaking up.
3. He makes me feel safe and I've never felt that before.
4. He loves me, and because I'm un-lovable, he's my last chance.

If one or all of the above are the reasons you're in the relationship, you need to break up and move on.

Sometimes very nice people, guys who are great on paper will fall in love with us, it doesn't mean that we automatically love them back or have chemistry or want to be with them for the long term.

You can break up with him. You will be just fine.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:58 AM on January 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: These answers have been AMAZING and thank you from the bottom of my heart. You've all helped me unlock some stuff and helped me see things that I couldn't.

Salamander and Matty- your words are definitely things that have been rattling around in my head from time to time. I do realize what a wonderful man I have and how rare it is to find someone who will not only be patient with your "stuff" but also try very hard to work on his own "stuff". He's a gem, and I know it. Do I want to ever get married again? I think that's the question. It's not a matter of this guy or someone, something else. I feel like...I just don't want anybody right now. It's like catching a huge fish but not being hungry.

So what I'm going to do is go back to the east coast for a week and reconnect with my friends. Haven't seen them in 5 years. Will be interesting to see my old stomping grounds and catch up with everyone. Hopefully kind of put things in perspective for me if ony to remember what I used to be like when I was happy, had friends, and in college.

My BF has taken off the time limit on a marriage answer. I still want to give him an answer sooner, for his sake more than mine. I will give one more big push towards finding a job locally while working on my sense of self, boundaries, and maybe finding a support group for DV or child abuse survivors. (And no, Obscure Reference, I don't have to be abused to feel excited. But I appreciate you raising the possibility, I know it happens.)

I have my own deadline though and I think I'm still feeling this way in a couple of months with no change, I have to walk.
posted by dollyllama at 9:08 AM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

I personally wouldn't sweat the dead bedroom, as that can often be rectified.

This is true and there's no particular need to rush into breaking up if you're not that unhappy with how things are right now, but you absolutely need to wait until these things are fixed or at the very least improving before committing to marriage. Dead bedroom really, really sucks for both people involved, and in many cases there is no solution other than breaking up. If it comes to that, marriage will make everything a lot harder. That's if you decide that marriage (to this guy) is something that you actually want, of course!
posted by randomnity at 9:42 AM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Glad to hear that you're heading back east! Ironically, I did the same thing but in the opposite direction. I went back west for a couple of months, got a part time job, and just let time help me sort out my feelings/thoughts to decide if I wanted to be back home with my SO.

I woke up one morning and realized I wanted to go home. 'Home' being not just my old house, but 'home' being wherever my SO was. Back to someone who loved me for 'me' despite all my foibles.

That was two years ago. We're married now. I won't say my life is perfect - who's ever is?? - but to convey to you that your decision is a viable one that can STILL result in a relationship with your current BF.

Best of luck to you!
posted by matty at 9:53 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will toss out this idea that occurred to me: Mid thirties women who do not yet have kids sometimes seem to be petrified to leave a relationship because they fear they are running out of time to have kids and this may be their only/last chance. You have not mentioned whether or not you want kids, but I thought I would bring that up as food for thought.

At some point, I read an awesome book where a woman who was about 40 years old kept whining to her therapist about how "old" she felt. Her therapist threw that back at her and ultimately she concluded she had "old eggs." This was a light bulb moment for her. She had been busy pursuing a career she loved and had not married and felt like she had missed out on having kids. In her early forties, she adopted two little girls from China as a single parent and stopped feeling "too old."

Do not let fear of your biological clock running out keep you in an unhappy relationship. Not everyone has kids, some folks do successfully have them later, etc. Being stuck because you fear this is your "last shot" at children is a really lousy reason to stay. You and he both deserve better. There are other ways to satisfy a mommy urge if that is one of the things holding you back.

Best of luck and glad to see your update.
posted by Michele in California at 1:39 PM on January 10, 2014

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